Geode Rock Hunting in Utah

By Michael Evans
geode image by Jim Mills from Fotolia.com

The rich geological elements that make up the natural landscape of Utah produce oil, coal, minerals and gemstones. Rock hunters can find a wide variety of Utah locations to search for fossils, petrified wood and geodes. The State of Utah allows geode hunting on federally controlled land, with specified restrictions. Rock hunters can find geode excavation sites within a few hours drive of Salt Lake City.

History of Geodes in Utah

The life of the Utah geodes began over 6 millions years ago, as the result of a volcanic eruption in western Utah. Deposits of rhyolite, a rock that contains quartz and minerals, were spread throughout the affected area. Cavities were formed in the rhyolite by gasses trapped inside the stones. Over a period of millions of years, circulating groundwater formed crystals inside the cavities, and the result is what geologists refer to as "geodes." The currents of Lake Bonneville, which covered part of the western region of Utah over 1,400 centuries ago, caused the rhyolite to erode and deposited the geodes in an area today known as the Dugway Geode Beds.

Geode Appearance

The exterior of a Utah geode appears like a smooth, round or egg-shaped rock, with designs that look like waves. Most geode exteriors consist of limestone, with a 2- to 3-inch diameter. After breaking or cutting open the geode, the interior reveals clear, purple or pink quartz crystals.

Where to Collect Geodes in Utah

Although 67 percent of the State of Utah is managed as federal lands, there are restrictions for where rock hunters can collect geodes. Rock hunting is not allowed in wildlife refuges, national parks, around dams, in national monuments, on military reservations and on land owned by American Indians. The largest deposits of geodes, and the most commonly excavated area, is known as the Dugway Geode Beds, located 130 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Located in a remote area, local rock and mineral shops can offer detailed information and maps to help find excavation sites at the Dugway Geode Beds.

Excavation

Recommended tools for geode excavation include safety glasses, shovels and picks. Geodes lie 1 to 4 feet below the ground surface under a layer of clay. The Utah Geological Survey recommends hunting for geodes in areas that have been previously excavated. Using picks and shovels, rock hunters can easily dig and sift the soft, previously turned soil, in search of undiscovered geodes.

Bureau of Land Management Collecting Rules

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protects and manages public land in Utah. The bureau issues claim permits for commercial rock collectors, allowing them to excavate geodes, as well as other rocks and minerals, from designated areas. If excavation takes place on lands with current claims, prior permission from the claim owner is required. The BLM allows the collection of geodes in small quantities, from unrestricted public lands, for personal collections. Excavators seeking large quantities for commercial use must contact the BLM and obtain a license, permit or lease.

About the Author

Michael Evans was born in Memphis, Tenn. He graduated from The University of Memphis, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication. His primary course of study was photography and film production. He first began writing professionally for iOwn Inc. in 1997, and was published by LensWork Magazine in 2003.